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Obscure Law of the Month – Is It Illegal to Mispronounce Arkansas?

There’s been a bit of an urban legend in Arkansas, that if you mispronounce the state name incorrectly, it would be considered illegal. To debunk this urban myth, Title 1, Chapter 4, Section 105 of the Arkansas State Code specifically states:

 

1-4-105.Pronunciation of state name.

Whereas, confusion of practice has arisen in the pronunciation of the name of our state and it is deemed important that the true pronunciation should be determined for use in oral official proceedings.

And, whereas, the matter has been thoroughly investigated by the State Historical Society and the Eclectic Society of Little Rock, which have agreed upon the correct pronunciation as derived from history and the early usage of the American immigrants.

Be it therefore resolved by both houses of the General Assembly, that the only true pronunciation of the name of the state, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound. It should be pronounced in three (3) syllables, with the final “s” silent, the “a” in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables. The pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of “a” in “man” and the sounding of the terminal “s” is an innovation to be discouraged.

I love how there’s a disclaimer in the code, that this may not be most recent version. The keyword is not illegal though, it’s discouraged. *sadface*

Social Media for Law Firms – A New, Yet Semi-Short Introduction

In the past few months, I’ve been discussing the broad spectrum of how some social media sites can benefit your law firm. But what I realized in error is that I would eventually start running out of social media sites to discuss. (It’s one of the bad, yet truthful excuses to explain why there haven’t been any Social Media for Law Firms articles in a while.) In the past I’ve covered Facebook, Ning, Quora, Foursquare, Yelp and finally Avvo. If I were to continue down this path (even discussing them on a monthly basis) I would eventually run out of sites to discuss – and that’s not good.

However, I have found a way around this little problem and as luck would have it, I’ll still be able to keep the title. The simple solution is to discuss a beneficial topic of the actual social media site, rather the site as a whole. You may be asking yourself – “what on earth are you talking about?!” For this I’ll give you some examples:

Let’s say you want to learn about utilizing Facebook advertisements and how much money should you spend on them? Better yet, what about learning how to professionally connect with other law firms on Twitter? These examples demonstrate a more defined topic within the realms of the social media site. Just for fun I’ll list some more:

  • Quora vs. Avvo – Are They Both Necessary?
  • Should I keep my Personal Facebook Page Away from my Firm’s Account?
  • Repairing Your Reputation on Yelp
  • Getting a High Score on the Avvo Ranking System
  • The Special 3rd Party Tools of Twitter
  • What Equipment Do I Need to Startup a YouTube Channel?
  • Who Should Manage Your Social Media Accounts?
  • How Active Should My Firm Be on Social Media?

Just as a teaser, I’ll definitely be discussing some of those topics above.

 

An In-Depth Topic or a Short Discussion

You may want to think of these topics as double edged swords; one side may not be sharp, but the other side certainly is. In the coming months, you may notice that my articles will be a bit more in-depth on the desired topics of discussion (knock on wood). I could write a short segment to a question, but I’m not entirely certain if that’s going to help our SEO. Don’t ever expect me to be writing an article to a simple question such as:

  • How do I post on Twitter?
  • How do I unfollow someone on Facebook?
  • How do I subscribe to a YouTube channel?

Those questions can’t be made into in-depth articles, even if I wanted to (seek Yahoo Answers or Quora for those questions.) Before I begin this segment (which may take place as early as next week), feel free to ask some questions on social media sites and perhaps I’ll discuss them in more depth one day in the near future. See you next time for another Social Media for Law Firms.

Legally Strange – Impersonating a TSA Agent is Not Illegal

If you want to flip out and rant about how some district attorneys do their job, this would be the time. Last month, when Eric Slighton impersonated a TSA agent at San Francisco International Airport (SFO); he was only arrested on charges of public drunkenness (by California law, it’s only a misdemeanor). Initially, and to the nationwide suspicion, Slighton would be faced with false imprisonment and impersonating a TSA Agent. It’s only been a little over a month later and all of his charges have been dropped (in other words, he’s off the hook).

 

SayWhat

 

For a Better Word, Lack of Evidence

According to the initial report by CBS San Francisco, Slighton, banking executive, slipped through security (wearing a blue polo shirt and khakis) and proceeded to grope two women in private screening booths. Unfortunately, those screening booths did not contain video surveillance and the two women Slighton presumably screened ran off from the initial incident; most likely to catch their flights. This was quite a struggle for San Mateo County District Attorney, Steve Wagstaffe, who handled the case. Luckily for Slighton, he was not prosecuted by Wagstaffe for the actions he performed last July.

Normally criminal charges are dropped due to lack of evidence; which would make the most sense in this case, because the two women Slighton “supposedly” sexually assaulted were never found. But that only leaves to answer the most important question, why wasn’t Slighton charged for impersonating a TSA Agent? Better yet, why wasn’t Slighton charged for detaining two unsuspecting women? Well, according to Wagstaffe, there are federal laws against impersonating a police officer, but not as a TSA Agent.

That makes complete utter sense now doesn’t it? FindLaw’s Brett Snider even noted the following federal laws:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 912Assuming or pretending to be a federal employee or officer is a felony.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 913: Impersonating federal officer and employee and making detention or search is also a felony.

By Federal Law, Slighton should (and I emphasize should) have been prosecuted for impersonating a federal employee (TSA Agent) and detaining two the individuals at security. Furthermore, Slighton is the son-in-law of former Hong Kong leader, Tung Chee-hwa, but Wagstaffe claims that association was purely irrelevant to his decision. But tell me, do you think having a connection with a Hong Kong official and being a full-fledged executive banker would get someone off the hook for crimes like this? It’s relatively possible and it’s one of those instances where it’s ‘Legally Strange’.

Affirmations for Legal Professionals – Insight from Positive Promotions

As a Marketing Director here at Accurate Court Reporting, Inc. I receive a ton of catalogs and promotional samplers from various companies around the United States. Yesterday, however, I received a really interesting calendar sampler from a company called: “Positive Promotions”. I’ve heard of Positive Promotions before, but when they sent me the calendar, I discovered it was filled with motivational sayings for each month. This week instead of applying a topic of discussion on the theories of positive energy (and no I haven’t run out of ideas), I’ll share some of these samples with you:

 

 

Affirmation #13 (Opportunity):

“Each new day offers a chance to shine.”

 

Affirmation #14 (Communication):

“Shared insight creates an environment where everyone thrives.”

 

Affirmation #15 (Encouragement):

“The right kind of nurturing and support makes beautiful things happen.”

 

As always, I hope these small, but useful affirmations will help you in your daily tasks. See you next time for another Affirmations for Legal Professionals.

Legally Strange – The Government Says You’re Still Alive, Donald Eugene Miller

Back in October of last year, I covered a story about Donald Eugene Miller, age 61, being “legally dead”, but “officially alive” in eyes of mankind. It was a strange, but great story to cover at the time, because Halloween was right around the corner and I got to use some vampire and zombie references, respectively. Well, you’d think that after this whole situation has passed, Miller and his relatives could rest in peace, right? Wrong. It turns out the Social Security Administration wants all of its death benefits back, which were paid unto his two daughters accordingly, tallying more than $47,000.

 

Is Being Legally Dead is the New Alive?

To be fair, let’s recap what happened to Miller. Back in 1986 when Miller lost his job and had hefty child support payments exceeding over $26,000, he vanished from society; probably not knowing what to do with his life. So naturally, the authorities tried to track him down. As it turns out, there wasn’t a clue to be found and no one knew where he was. The information that they were able to acquire is that he was a heavy drinker and when he ran off, he probably died somewhere, which must have been heart-wrenching to his family. In 1994, Donald Eugene Miller was pronounced officially dead in the eyes of the Hancock County Probate Court of Ohio. But in 2005, Miller was found alive in the town of Fostoria, Ohio. His parents awkwardly had to break the bad news to him about being dead. I can only imagine the conversation that took place between them.

“Hey son, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re dead; we still love you very much though.”

As it seems, Miller was okay with this for a while – that is, until 2013 when he decided to see if he could get his death ruling overturned, so he could reinstate his driver’s license and Social Security card.

Judge Judy

But as this sad story continues, Judge Allan Davis couldn’t legally do that for him according to the Statue of Limitations. Miller had three years to prove he wasn’t dead, and in 1997, his time was officially up. Miller was 16 years late. It was truly (and I emphasize truly) an awkward situation for Judge Davis.

Now, 10 months later, the United States Government is ignoring the Davis’ ruling against Miller and demands for all their money back, which was paid onto his two daughters, respectively. You’d think this story could get even stranger? I mean what’s going to happen if Miller commits a crime, is he going to be punished in the eyes of the law, will he go to jail?

Personally, I feel bad for Miller in some respects, but seriously how is this scenario not put to rest? I can only imagine the conversations that Miller has, “Hi, my name is Donald Miller, I’m age 61 and the law doesn’t know whether I’m dead or alive.” That’s an icebreaker if I’ve ever saw one.

The real icing on the cake is that the Social Security Administration isn’t even going after Miller right away; they’re going after his two children first.

 

A Rare and Unusual Occurrence

Initially in 1994, when his ex-wife, Robin Miller asked the probate court to declare her ex-husband dead, they agreed accordingly, so her two daughters could collect the benefits from Social Security. They each received about $100 a week until they turned 18. The federal benefits were paid, which accumulated under $30,000. So, if you include the fees and interest calculated by the SSA, the two daughters owe $47,256; $28,711 to one and $18,545 to the other.

Does the SSA seriously think it’s going to extract this money that was distributed 20 years ago? Even Robin claims that she wasn’t sure what the money was spent on; she had a hard enough time trying to support her two kids. Well, according to the Courier, the SSA will first go after the two daughters for the money, then his ex-wife Robin and then finally Miller himself. Robin Miller (who’s new last name happens to be Miller when she remarried), doesn’t believe her or her daughters owe any money to the federal government – and she makes a valid point. In the eyes of the law, Miller was legally declared dead by the probate courts, which would permit the two siblings to acquire the funds.

In the lieu of these bizarre and rare demands, Robin has requested a waiver to the SSA, which they are currently considering. Alas, this brings up a brand new point; even if the SSA goes after the real culprit, Donald Miller, that won’t matter much either. Kevin Underhill from Lowering the Bar states that Miller won’t be able to get a job, yet alone a loan that will allow him to pay this monetary figure back, because he’s legally dead in the eyes of the law. So the SSA may just be chasing its own tail or perhaps they’ll say: “it’s best to swallow this situation and move on.”

Stay tuned for the next edition of Legally Strange!

Remembering Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Instead of conducting this week’s Legally Strange, I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate Robin Williams, one of the greatest comedians of all time. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve talked an awful lot about happiness and having a positive outlook on your job / life. If you remember William’s lead roles in movies like: Patch Adams, Jack or Mrs. Doubtfire, he’s always had a positive outlook on life. Now don’t get me wrong, Williams was struggling with depression and alcoholism, which ultimately led to his suicide on Monday; but according to his wife, Susan Schneider, her hopes is that everyone will remember the “countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

 

Remembering the Good Times with Robin Williams

 

“Make Your Life Spectacular.” – Robin Williams from the Movie Jack

 

Affirmations for Legal Professionals – Having Enough

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve discussed about the topics of prosperity, abundance and being rich. However, sometimes when I discuss these affirmations, one may perhaps get confused with the ideas that prosperity, abundance and/or being rich is about having an excess of wealth. In this particular instance I’ll point out two very different scenarios:

 

Option 1: Do you need to have a Bugatti Veyron automobile (Which costs over one million dollars)

Option 2: A fully functioning automobile with the accessories / necessities needed to get you towards your destination? (Probably 60-80% less than the Veyron)

 

A majority of you, most likely will choose the fully functioning automobile that costs 60-80% less. In these particular talks I can go on and on about providing different options from mansions, to fancy dinners and vacations, but what it ultimately boils down to in the end is about what you really need in the end (and I emphasize the word ‘really’). In my own particular instance, I choose to be rich and prosperous; but when I define rich, I define it as having enough to suffice for myself and for my friends / family around me. There’s a true key difference between “providing” and “having an excess to provide”. This week’s affirmations, will apply to the principles of having enough in our daily lifestyle, either at work or at home.

 

 

Affirmation #10:

My job is a joyous and abundant in nature. It brings me great wealth and prosperity, so I can provide for myself and those around me.

 

Affirmation #11:

Each day, when I wake up, I cannot stress the gratitude that my fortunes are still with me. If I’m ever worried about money, I can always say, “Thank you for my wealth” or “Thank you for my prosperity”.

 

Affirmation #12:

In the river of prosperity and abundance, there is an endless amount it has to offer. I understand life is not about having a fancy car or a one million dollar mansion, but it’s about having what I need so I won’t ever have to worry again. I can leave those fears to rest.

 

I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed this segment on Affirmations for Legal Professionals. I look forward to another edition next week, take care.

Legally Strange – Our Middle Name is “Seamonster”

For the past year, ever since I’ve started doing segments on the abnormality of the law in today’s word, I have seen and discussed some pretty uncommon occurrences, but this week’s Legally Strange takes the cake. Not only is this situation “legally strange”, it’s also “strange” to see the attention it’s getting.

This week’s topic is about strange name changes in the legal world. Sometimes I question this; for lack of a better word, Ten Million or GoldenPalace.com. But for all goodness sake, why would you want to change your middle name to Seamonster?! Well apparently, this is the case for a Massachusetts couple, who petitioned the court to legally do so. A few days ago, their dream became a reality.

 

The Tale of Two “Seamonsters”

Sadly, there isn’t much to the story behind Melanie Convery and her husband Neal Coughlin’s name change. The original appeal was presented in their local Holyoke newspaper; the Holyoke Sun. But ever since their request went viral, it’s been stirring up quite a bit of controversy all over the nation, even making People’s magazine. But there’s no explanation to Convery and her husband’s request, as per her explanation on Twitter.

 

 

But with all these “Seamonsters” aside, I think it’s best to discuss the legal perspective behind this topic.

 

Want a Strange Name? Follow the Rules.

Speaking from a legal perspective, each state generally has its own set of rules when filing for a new name; however, you’ll need to have claimed residency within the state and country you wish to file your name change. (Usually at a minimum this is six months.) But even when you decide to file a petition to change your name, there are some requirements that must be met:

  • The name, for one, cannot be changed if you’re using it to avoid legal actions, judgments, debts or obligations.
  • Secondly, if you’re looking to defraud or confuse someone with your new name, that’s another big no-no.
  • Third, if you’re looking to change your name to something like “Justin Bieber” or “Brittany Spears”, you might want to rethink that, as it’s illegal to capitalize against any famous individual or celebrity.
  • Fourth, if your new name is obscene, vulgar, racially-offensive or would entice violence in any way shape or form, you can forget it.
  • Fifth and finally, your new name cannot contain any numbers or punctuation marks. Sorry hash-tag lovers.

So since the name “Seamonster” doesn’t correspond to any fascinating trends right now, it’s been green-lighted by the Massachusetts Courts. Stay tuned next week for another edition of “River Monsters” *ahem* “Legally Strange”.

Affirmations for Legal Professionals – A Casual Reminder

Last time when I did our segment on Affirmations for Legal Professionals, I discussed about how we are rich and rich at heart. This week, I wanted to bring up a very interesting topic that frequently comes about in conversation when discussing affirmations. When we first encounter the ideas and philosophies of having a positive outlook on life, we sometimes get caught up in the mentality that in order to achieve these goals, we must never have another negative thought again.

I’m here to tell you that that’s not true. My church reverend would say: “This is an insane and impossible level to achieve. If that’s your plan you need to write your invitations toward your ascension”.

The ideas / beliefs of speaking positive affirmations and having a higher mindset, is not to dwell upon the negative for long periods of time. There’s a significant difference with this, because having a bad day or week is acceptable, dwelling upon this for months upon end is not. For this week’s affirmations, I will apply the principles of a positive outlook into place, while understanding that we are human at the same time.

 

 

Affirmation #7:

I am in complete control of my mind and my life around me. If I’m ever having a bad day, I can always say that I won’t be this way for very long!

 

Affirmation #8:

There is always a means to achieve prosperity and abundance, for I believe that those paths may take a small amount of time, but when they appear to me in front of my eyes, I will be ready to accept them in open arms.

 

Affirmation #9:

If I ever stray off from the path I’m originally on, I can find the way back easily and harmoniously. Whether it’s my job or my life at home, I always know I will succeed in the end.

 

I hope these affirmations have helped you in your daily lifestyle and remember that we are human beings. If we’re ever down, we know that we will always succeed in the long run. See you next time for another ‘Affirmations for Legal Professionals’.

Social Media for Law Firms – Avvo

Back in May, I did a Social Media for Law Firms segment on the semi-popular site known as Quora. After writing that article I wondered briefly if Quora would have a huge potential for legal professionals in their industry. It just so happened that by accident, I stumbled upon a page known as Avvo; a social media site that’s almost identical to Quora except it focuses on questions and answers from a legal perspective. However, if you’re a legal assistant or paralegal, Avvo probably isn’t going to be of much use to you as it’s dedicated directly to lawyers.

 

Avvo – Explained

Making confident legal decisions can be difficult sometimes, especially with there being millions of lawyers out there, each slightly varying from one opinion to the next. For those of us who aren’t attorneys, we normally default to a friend, family or the internet for that matter in search of legal advice. Avvo was designed almost identically to Quora, which allows anyone to inquire about legal advice and be answered by a real attorney. The topics of law are not limited either, as there’s wide variety to choose from. (This may include Bankruptcy, Real Estate, Criminal, Immigration, Family and more.)

 

Avvo – Can it Help or Hurt You?

In last month’s discussion on the social media review site known as Yelp, I mentioned profusely that if you didn’t take action towards your account, it could cost you. The same goes for Avvo, as it doesn’t matter whether you have an account with them or not – your information will be pulled from directories and public databases alike. As long as you claim and tend to your completely free account, you should be okay. Similar to Yelp, your account has a rating system which ranks from 1 (extreme caution) to 10 (superb). The ranking system is based upon various factors not only found within Avvo, but also found within databases and the internet. Also, the rating system is also unbiased, so lawyers can’t pay to change their rankings, nor is there any favoritism.

Once an attorney claims their account, they can edit and add information such as awards, resumes and articles. By adding additional information an attorney can increase their ranking.

But just like Yelp, Avvo shouldn’t scare you – it’s a great source for free potential advertising & networking by writing peer-to-peer reviews, developing relationships with other attorneys and most importantly, answering questions that users ask.

The major downside to Avvo is that it could potentially be a make or break for your next client. It’s not to say that actual human social networking doesn’t come into play when running your law firm, but there is something to be said of what’s on the web. Even with that one un-resolved review could spell disaster. See you next month for another Social Media for Law Firms.

Avvo - Have no legal fear


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